Recently in 1950-1959 Category


I have many reminiscences, not only of my years at Minnesota but also M.I.T., and then going on to the profession I love. They include:


1. Working with Buckminster Fuller on two projects and the complications that developed.


2. Meeting Ralph Rapson, who became Dean at the School of Architecture, while I attended graduate school at M.I.T.


3. Meeting fellow student Randy Vosbeck, who is now the Senior President of the AIA, and who also received the CALA Alumni Achievement award.


4. Meeting fellow student Louis Angelikus and interning with his father's firm to design the Richfield State Bank while Louis and I were still students at Minnesota; and working with James Stageberg on his first house while he attended graduate school at Harvard.


5. Meeting Kay Lockhart, who later worked with me at Techbuilt Homes in Cambridge. Returning to Minneapolis after graduating, I attended parties hosted by Kay and his wife, Lynn, to honor Dean Rapson. I also enjoyed dining at their New French Café.


6. Attending other parties in later years honoring Rapson, including a "Breakfast with Rapson." I cherish a photograph taken of us at one of these parties; Tom (Fisher), you were there.


7. Winning the Rotch Travelling Scholarship in 1954, allowing me to spend a year travelling and studying in Europe. Jim Stageberg followed me, winning the Rotch a year later.


8. Receiving the Whitney Young Jr. Citation from the AIA in 1981.


9. Serving as the AIA's first Deputy Vice President for Minority Affairs from 1982 to 1984.


10. Being elevated to the Chancellor of the AIA's College of Fellows in 1994, and in 1997 receiving the CALA Alumni Achievement Award.

Very truly yours,
Robert Traynham Coles, FAIA, President

Minneapolis Skywalks - A Bridge to Revival

Nearing age 81, architect Dennis L. Johnson, looks back on a rich and rewarding career designing many buildings large and small, mostly in the Philadelphia area. He claims that the genesis of the Minneapolis Skyway system took place in that presentation by design students at the University of Minnesota on a June day in 1957. The attached letter shares his memories of that time and the years that followed.

University of Minnesota - B.A. Arch '49, B.Arch '50

What was the most important thing/skill/concept you learned at the School of Architecture?
Get the concept you want and then develop it in detail.

Who made the most lasting impression (most influenced you) and why?
Don W. Brown, a classmate. We used to study together.

What is your favorite memory from your studio days?
The camaraderie of all us dumb men from the service. We had a great time.

Please identify one (or more) memorable design project that you worked on while a student at the School of Architecture.
It was a five-man team for a medical office building using the site across the street from the Minneapolis YMCA. We had Hesson, Thorsen, Gibson, Madson & Brown. Brown was responsible for the design and he and I built the model. It was a great model. It was displayed for quite a spell afterward in the Museum of Art located in Northrup Auditorium.

What major forces (such as individual architects, design philosophies, rendering styles, research methods, etc.) do you remember influencing you significantly as a student?
Rendering, Harold Blewett, John Rauman, and Don Brown.

University of Minnesota - B.Arch '59

What was the most important thing/skill/concept you learned at the School of Architecture?
How to design a complete building.

Who made the most lasting impression (most influenced you) and why?
Professor Robert Bliss. Bob was my adviser and helped this C student get through school.

What major forces (such as individual architects, design philosophies, rendering styles, research methods, etc.) do you remember influencing you significantly as a student?
Frank Lloyd Wright.
University of Minnesota - B.Arch '56

What was the most important thing/skill/concept you learned at the School of Architecture?
Learning how to think for myself, taking charge in team situations when leadership is needed, and working as a team member in joint situations.

Who made the most lasting impression (most influenced you) and why?
Robert Poliss was patient, understanding, and inspirational when needed. Walter Virett had a spirit of panache and vitality. Fred Koepper's vast knowledge of architecture history inspired me to travel and see the world. As a result I have visited 67 countries on 6 continents observing life, history, and architecture, as well as taking thousands of photographs. Rob Ceray inspired me to improve and work harder at design.

What is your favorite memory from your studio days?
Working long days and nights to meet project deadlines, advice and criticism by fellow classmates in the absence of instructors, and several visiting lecturers such as Siefred Gideon, Oscar Storonov, Bucky Fuller, and others. A Grade 5 design sketch problem in '66 to design a reviewing stand for the city of Brooklyn, New York, after winning the 1955 World Series against the Yankees. We were a group of 12 students that came up with a platform suspended by colorful helium-filled balloons on twelve 24x30" illustration boards connected with a large 4' high, 18' wide mural. We all got A's.

Please identify one (or more) memorable design project that you worked on while a student at the School of Architecture.
During Grade 2, a union resort on Pelican Lake with a group of 4 students working together for a month. We had great cooperation and spirit, and there was travel involved to the site and research. Also, thesis project in 1955-1956 while recently married and I worked in a cramped apartment, as well as school. A real project I worked on was a funeral home in Winona for my friends parents funeral home.

What major forces (such as individual architects, design philosophies, rendering styles, research methods, etc.) do you remember influencing you significantly as a student?
I was in awe with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Groupius, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Eames, and Alexander Girard. Hugh Ferris for his black charcoal rendered and Lou Angelivis for his tempera color renderings. I was impressed by firms that contributed to school with literature, magazines, and samples. Our library was a valuable resource for background history and inspiration. 

Cite an example (be specific) that illustrates how you used the education you received at the School of Architecture to positively impact (or better) your community, city, nation or the world.
Over the years I have served on the planning commission and board of zoning appeals in Golden Valley, served on an advisory committee for a northeastern Wisconsin Methodist Church, been a member of AIA and president of NE Wisconsin District AIA, lectured students at AIA meetings in said meetings and various technical schools, and was a member of the board of trustees for Caloreftes in Green Bay and Golden Valley. I also lectured students at the University of Minnesota department of Interior Design from 1974 to 1985.

University of Minnesota - B.Arch '59

Su Blumentals-Memories from College and Career


What was the most important thing/skill/concept you learned at the School of Architecture?
The ability to boil down unrelated information into a logical solution, and to think on my feet.

Who made the most lasting impression (most influenced you) and why?
Ralph Rapson, because without him I would not have been in architecture at the U of M. He believed that women could succeed in architecture and stuck with me when other faculty members expressed their dissatisfaction with letting women into the school. As I have aged, I have also tried to follow his attitude that age is a state of mind, and he was forever young and vital!

What is your favorite memory from your studio days?
It was a tightly knit little community. I remember the friends I gained more than the projects I worked on.

Please identify one (or more) memorable design project that you worked on while a student at the School of Architecture.
Winning a one night charette sponsored by the American Tile Council for a bathroom design, including a new tile design. Won $25, and we used it to throw a cocktail party for some of the class and faculty. It was wonderful seeing a schoolmate's family's maid throwing cocktail meatballs into the mouth of Vivrett's Great Dane, Andy.

What major forces (such as individual architects, design philosophies, rendering styles, research methods, etc.) do you remember influencing you significantly as a student?
We were all irritated that Ralph would not teach rendering and forced all of us to develop our own style. I am glad I was there when watercolor was the material of choice for presentation and that color was an important part of our training. I think Ben Gingold's flamboyant attitude toward architecture taught me that one should not be taken in by the "flavor of the month" in architectural design, but to go where one's imagination leads you.

Cite an example (be specific) that illustrates how you used the education you received at the School of Architecture to positively impact (or better) your community, city, nation or the world.
I was on a citizen's committee of the Minneapolis Park Board that was to study the best master plan for the re-do of Lake Harriet. After considering the existing conditions, I suggested re-routing the parkway to get facilities and people adjacent to the lakeshore and parking on the perimeter, before considering locations of paths, docks, and such. When the committee presented this solution, it precipitated much argument from newspaper editorials and such. Luckily, it was adopted, creating a wonderful site for Milo Thompson's Band Shell and a vibrant park full of diverse activity!


University of Minnesota - B.A. Arch '54, B.Arch '58

What was the most important thing/skill/concept you learned at the School of Architecture?
Thorough math, physics, and structures education since architecture was then in the Institute of Technology with engineers. Basic design and public presentation skills as well.

Who made the most lasting impression (most influenced you) and why?
George Jones, Ralph Rapson, Professor Walter Vivrett, Oskar Stonorov who was a visiting critic, and Professor Kessler who taught History of Architecture.

What is your favorite memory from your studio days?
Meeting my wife of 58 years, LaVonne (Macalester, '55), studio friends and fellow students, and the team project senior year (see below).

Please identify one (or more) memorable design project that you worked on while a student at the School of Architecture.
My most memorable project was a proposed plan for Central Minneapolis in Fall '57 that was an all-studio team project with 6 sub-groups, and presentation to faculty and Civic Leaders on completion. The thesis was "A Proposed Civic Affairs Center."

What major forces (such as individual architects, design philosophies, rendering styles, research methods, etc.) do you remember influencing you significantly as a student?
Frank Lloyd Wright visiting lecture, Oskar Stonorov, a visiting critic from Philadelphia, Louis Kahn at Penn, and Walter Vivrett.

Cite an example (be specific) that illustrates how you used the education you received at the School of Architecture to positively impact (or better) your community, city, nation or the world.
I have almost constant participation in community and non-profit institutions as a Board Member, Chair, and/or pro-bono services to help them grow and better serve their constituencies.

University of Minnesota - B.Arch '57

What was the most important thing/skill/concept you learned at the School of Architecture?
I learned how to design buildings.

Who made the most lasting impression (most influenced you) and why?
Professor Robert Bliss.

What is your favorite memory from your studio days?
The bonding that takes place while solving design problems.

What major forces (such as individual architects, design philosophies, rendering styles, research methods, etc.) do you remember influencing you significantly as a student?
The history of architecture. 

Cite an example (be specific) that illustrates how you used the education you received at the School of Architecture to positively impact (or better) your community, city, nation or the world.
I used my architectural training to the assist the Metro West United Methodist Church's builder's club to select sites for mission churches and to aid the new congregations in the area of design and financing.

University of Minnesota - B.A. Arch '56, B.Arch '58
Harvard Graduate School of Design - M.Arch '60

What was the most important thing/skill/concept you learned at the School of Architecture?
Professionalism in all aspects of architecture such as design, implementation, personal integrity, thoroughness, and honesty.

Who made the most lasting impression (most influenced you) and why?
Ralph Rapson, Leonard Parker, James Stageberg, and fellow students for the reason noted above.

What is your favorite memory from your studio days?
The comradeship and mutual respect for fellow students and faculty members' design abilities, and friendship.

Please identify one (or more) memorable design project that you worked on while a student at the School of Architecture.
It is difficult to identify one, but the 1957 Sao Paulo Brazil International Competition entry with team members Paul Bailly, Joe Blair, John Cotton, Peter Lee, Glen Lindberg, and myself was very memorable. Although we did not win, a 1960 classmate of mine at the Harvard Graduate School of Design was on the winning team in '57 from Tokyo, Japan.

What major forces (such as individual architects, design philosophies, rendering styles, research methods, etc.) do you remember influencing you significantly as a student?
The faculty members rendering styles of Ralph Rapson, James Stageberg, and John Rauma. Classmates Tom Larson, Joe Blair, and John Cotton were all impressive to me as well. All of our instructors had their own unique qualities, although many students complained about all of them for some reason or other, which I could never understand. I respected all of them for their caring and professional attitudes. Many of them became life-long professional friends.

Cite an example (be specific) that illustrates how you used the education you received at the School of Architecture to positively impact (or better) your community, city, nation or the world.
This is really a loaded question for any graduate to answer about themselves! My response noted above in the first question relating to professionalism in all aspects of architecture certainly applies.